MOSQUE LEGAL SERVICES: RLUIPA, LAND USE, AND ZONING

It happens more often than many religious groups realize. You purchase land for a mosque or other house of worship only to find out the local government is denying you the ability to use the land for religious assembly due to zoning issues. Now what?

ALLOW US TO BE YOUR GUIDE TO THE RELIGIOUS LAND USE ACT

The team at Dalton & Tomich can help you navigate the often complicated process of achieving zoning approval for your mosque or community center. And if necessary, we can also help if your case requires federal court litigation.

The professionals at Dalton & Tomich, PLC have successfully defended the rights of mosques and other houses of worship in complex religious land use and zoning cases throughout the United States. Our attorneys are well-versed in:

  • First Amendment Free Exercise Clause
  • Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
  • A federal law called the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)

Our experience with local administrative bodies and in federal court has led to victories that have enabled faith communities to pursue their noble missions by expanding existing buildings, acquiring new property, and completing new construction projects. Cases may involve the pursuit of remedies including monetary damages, attorney fees, and injunctive relief allowing you to secure the permits to open your doors.

Our thoughts on the importance of the Religious Land Use Act to houses of worship have been featured in Islamic Horizons magazine and major news outlets.

MOSQUE LAND USE AND ZONING LEGAL SERVICES

If you need help overcoming zoning barriers to your plans to construct, renovate, or expand your mosque, Dalton & Tomich, PLC is here to guide you. We work with religious leaders to overcome many challenges related to:

  • Mosque construction approvals
  • Mosque design requirements
  • Mosque space requirements

Legal services available as we guide your mosque through the religious land use and zoning process may include:

  • Working with the local planning commission and other administrative bodies to secure necessary approvals
  • Assisting you through the local administrative process
  • Supporting you in court through the use of expert witnesses as well as testimony from planning, zoning, traffic and other professionals
  • Collecting the evidence needed to support your case
  • Working with you to decide the best plan of action for preparing and finalizing pleadings
  • Filing suit in the appropriate courts
  • Seeking a Court ordered injunction (if necessary)
  • Negotiating a settlement or proceeding to trial, depending on your needs and the best interests of your mosque
  • Keeping you updated on the progress of your case throughout the process

GET THE FREE RLUIPA GUIDE

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of not being able to use the building or property you just purchased, you should know two things: 1) You aren’t alone. 2) You have options.

This FREE guide will help you understand your rights, navigate your options (litigation might not even be required!) and understand the process for what happens next.

Download Your FREE Guide for Mosques

EXPERIENCE COUNTS IN RELIGIOUS LAND USE AND ZONING DISPUTES

Mosque leaders and their members benefit from the experience of our religious land use and zoning attorneys. Our team is led by Daniel P. Dalton and Noel W. Sterett. They are nationally recognized for their work in this area of the law and have more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases that involve religious land use.

That experience has helped Dalton and Tomich win litigation cases all across the country.

CONNECT WITH A RLUIPA LAW ATTORNEY

Real-World Results for Mosque Construction and Expansion

One RLUIPA case that grabbed national attention was that of the American Islamic Community Center mosque in its suit against the City of Sterling Heights, Michigan. Working closely with AICC leaders, Dalton & Tomich helped the mosque overcome unfounded and unfair opposition from the city planning commission to move forward with plans to build a new mosque in the community.

View More Case Studies

YOUR MOSQUE MATTERS. WE CAN HELP.

The experienced mosque land use and zoning attorneys of Dalton & Tomich, PLC will defend your mosque’s right to grow and to worship freely so your organization can thrive.

CONNECT WITH A RLUIPA ATTORNEY TODAY

Frequently Asked Questions: Mosque Requirements and Land Use

When it comes to land use and zoning law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) is an invaluable tool for mosques and other religious institutions. This religious protection act prevents local governments from discriminating against religious uses in the context of zoning. If secular uses are permitted in a zone, religious uses must also be permitted. This is a federal law.

There are many other claims that can be raised to support local mosque construction in a land use dispute. This includes claims under the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause, the Free Speech or Assembly Clauses and the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection clause.

The facts of your case may bring other federal statutes into play as well. These additional laws could include the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disability Act, as well as state constitutional and statutory provisions. We evaluate each claim independently to determine what is the best strategy in moving forward so that you have the best chance of succeeding at trial.

For more on the question of what happens when RLUIPA doesn’t apply, watch our “what if RLUIPA doesn’t apply” video.

Mosques and other religious entities have the same ability to be treated fairly and equally in all zoning and land use matters as secular assembly uses. Local governments who discriminate against these institutions are often in violation of RLUIPA and the United States Constitution.

Our video on what to do in the case of a zoning denial is the resource you need. The first step is to see if there are any potential internal appeals in the zoning code. If there are no internal appeals available, and if the facts of your case or the language of the zoning ordinance give you the ability to challenge the denial, you can file suit in state or federal court asserting a just cause of action under RLUIPA.

We are happy to help in these matters. Please contact us if you have any questions.

We are happy to help in these matters. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Conditional use permits provide that a religious use is permitted in the zoning district, but it’s not considered a right. In order to get the conditional use permit, the applicant has to meet certain requirements specified by a local governing agency.

Estimating the time it will take a case to be settled or decided in court is difficult to do because there are a number of factors involved. Generally speaking, it takes 18 months from filing a suit to the trial. During that year and a half, there will be highs and lows. It’s important to prepare for the emotional roller coaster so it’s easier to manage.

Another consideration is that a lot of factors in the case are outside of your control. There’s no way to pick the judge or prevent changes in the laws that impact your case. Therefore, accurately estimating the timeframe and exact course that’s taken is very difficult.

Litigation can be a very expensive endeavor in terms of legal fees and related costs. But it can also be more costly to forfeit your ability to use your land as you intended.

Providing an exact cost for litigation at the beginning of the process is nearly impossible. The cost partly depends on how the other party responds, which we have no control over. We can’t tell you how much a case may cost exactly, but based on our extensive experience we can tell you the estimated cost of the case going forward.

We understand that choosing an attorney is an important decision that can feel overwhelming at times. Our job is to alleviate the burden by guiding you through the litigation process and providing legal services that deliver value.

For more information, view our video on the time and expenses for a typical religious land use case.